Subjective ethics are not biblical

Ethical decisions should not be based on feelings.

Kei-Lynn Wheaton, Staff Writer

Britannica describes morality and ethics as distinguishing right and wrong. While morality remains personal, the standards for ethics are socially agreed upon. Imanuel Kant, Aristotle and Plato are among the world’s most famous philosophers who pondered on ethics and what they mean for humans.

Ethics is about what someone values and believes in. Therefore, some might claim that ethics and morality are subjective—especially if the community consensus involves establishing ethical principles and putting them into practice. 

Wesleyan University disagrees with the idea of subjective ethics. They state, “if subjectivism is true, then the opinions of those in power are more easily forced upon others, while those who may oppose these opinions have no recourse to any ‘objective’ grounds for rejecting these prevailing opinions. In other words, if subjectivism is true, then ‘might makes right.’” Furthering this argument, Wesleyan University explains that if ethics were subjective, elitist groups could dictate ethics. With fluctuation in power, there would also be fluctuation in ethical principles.

MAKING ETHICAL DECISIONS

In his book “Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics,” professor of philosophy and Christian ethics Scott Rae gives seven criteria for making an ethical decision. He recommends gathering facts about the ethical decision, as well as determining what principles and virtues apply to the decision. Additionally, he advises considering alternatives and possible consequences before making a decision. 

Rae does not use this as a full proof method of making an ethical decision. Rather, this provides a starting point for someone to consider the ramifications of their actions and ethical decisions. 

BIBLICAL MODEL

While Rae offers a step-by-step arrangement on ethics, the Bible gives clear ethical standards upon which humans should conduct themselves. ESV notes that biblical ethics are not communally agreed upon. These ethics are established by God for all people.

Jeremiah 31 ethics are written on everyone’s hearts, so everyone knows the difference between right and wrong.

Additionally, ESV states that Biblical ethics is countercultural as the “surrounding culture conducts its life largely in ways that result from the fall, those who are in a covenant relationship with God are called upon to conduct their lives according to the new identity that flows from that gracious relationship.”

There are consequences for actions which are seen throughout the Old Testament. In subjective ethics, the criteria for right and wrong are constantly changing. Society could agree that something wrong is good—like throwing stones at someone. By subjectivism logic, this is ethical. What needs to be shown by Christians everywhere is that there is an objective moral and ethical standard—set by God to his creation to maintain order and grace.

 

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